With Flaws of Couture, sexy knows no size limitations
It started with a sweater.
Sasha Ruddock was fed up with being held to a second-class standard of beauty. From a young age, the Brampton, Canada native had learned that within media and fashion, full-figured body types and brown skin like hers were rarely welcomed. Finding clothes that not only fit her figure but also complimented it was a constant challenge while on any given day, she could find herself on the receiving end of a backhanded compliment that praised her curvy figure while at the same time, snubbed it.
Rather than choosing to accept things as they were, Ruddock took action. She designed a sweater, and choosing to reclaim the one backhanded compliment that she’d heard most while growing up, she emblazoned the front with four words, all capitalized:
“PRETTY FOR A BIG GIRL?”
She uploaded a photo of the sweater to Instagram, advertising it for sale. At that time, the social media platform was relatively new and at most, she expected a handful of sales from her friends.
But when Ruddock woke the next morning, she was floored by the response. Her photo had gone viral overnight and to her incredulity, she had more than 200 orders in her inbox.
“I didn’t even know how to deal with it,” recalls Ruddock, now 28. She laughs as she recounts the memory. “I literally had to figure it all out, but that was just the beginning. That was how I decided, ‘Oh, I should probably continue doing this.’”
And so, Flaws of Couture was born. Launched with her then-partner Garcia Marie, FOC (which at the time, included a lifestyle blog under the same name) was entirely by curvy girls, for curvy girls. The name, carefully chosen, was a bold reclamation of the supposed imperfections and faults of full-figured women. As one of the few fashion brands focused exclusively on plus-sized women, Flaws of Couture quickly received its due attention and was hailed by plus-sized bloggers while snagging features on local TV and in online magazines.
Now owned and managed entirely by Ruddock, Flaws of Couture has evolved from its humble blogging roots into a trendy fashion line with global appeal (based in the Greater Toronto Area, many of FOC’s customers hail from the U.S. and the U.K.). The brand’s international allure is largely promulgated by its inclusive branding strategy; While curvy women are its target audience, overall representation lies at its core. Flaws of Couture‘s models don’t merely differ in terms of shape and size, but racially, they’re equally as diverse. This is no accident. Rather, it’s the direct result of Ruddock’s determination to ensure that young women see themselves represented in her fashion brand—something she herself longed for while growing up.
But Flaws of Couture isn’t just about inclusion. It’s about empowering plus-sized women to celebrate their bodies in the same ways that slim-figured women are continuously encouraged to do. Perhaps the most visible way FOC does this is by reclaiming the backhanded compliments that full-figured women are often subjected to and turning them into fashionably wearable statements. Much of FOC’s designs feature short and sassy statements inspired either by pop culture or urban slang while others, like “Pretty For a Big Girl?” are based on Ruddock’s own experiences.
When asked which of her printed statements are her favourites, Ruddock narrows it down to two: Big Girls Don’t Text Back and Loyalty & Orgasms.
“That one’s my heart,” she says of the second. “And it’s a top-selling one, too! It’s been around since the beginning and I’ve never gotten rid of it because people are always on that. Love and orgasms are essentially what we really want, right?”
It’s exactly this that lies at the heart of Flaws of Couture. For Ruddock, her brand is about much more than just fashion. Flaws of Couture is a rebellion against societal standards that dictate which body shapes and sizes are deemed beautiful, and a rallying cry for the women who are forcibly made victims of these standards every day. It’s an unapologetic, in-your-face reminder that sex appeal doesn’t just come in one size and that full-figured women are equally deserving of love, loyalty and yes, orgasms.
Ruddock strives to amplify this very message through her social media presence. With post after post, Ruddock presents to the world a plus-sized woman who isn’t shy about her curves. She has more than 3,000 Instagram pictures and not a single one paints a picture of a woman ashamed of her body. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: She is defiantly confident and boldly beautiful.
With this message she’s managed to build quite the following—almost 100,000, so far. Not surprisingly, most of Ruddock’s followers are women and though they all represent different shapes, sizes and backgrounds, for many of them, following Ruddock isn’t about keeping up with the latest fashion trends. To them she’s a daily source of inspiration, and this isn’t something she takes lightly.
“I’m a regular, very simple girl but at the same time, I understand the importance of who I am to other people,” explains Ruddock. “People tell me that I’ve helped them to get out of situations or I’ve helped them to feel better about themselves or I’ve helped them to see themselves in a different light.
“This is all so much bigger than just myself, you know? I’m honoured and I’m humbled that people are inspired by me in any way.”
Ruddock admits that managing a growing brand like FOC—and the attention that inherently comes with it—can be overwhelming, but the results are well worth it. Just this year, she was contacted by ASOS Marketplace scouts who had come across her designs and wanted to sell Flaws of Couture in their online vintage boutique store. Of course, she accepted their offer, and FOC will start selling in ASOS Marketplace this October. It’s a huge step for Ruddock, as visibility within the online store will expose her to an entirely new audience. While this untapped potential would be cause of anxiety and nerves for most, for Ruddock, there’s only excitement and optimism.
“I’m just trying to enjoy the journey because I know that there’s so much more on the other side of this,” she says. “I remember when I used to pray for all of this, and that’s how I know I’m just getting closer and closer. This is my life. It’s meant to be.”
Flaws of Couture has come a long way since its first sweater. In spite of its evolution from a Canadian fashion blog to a now internationally recognized brand, its core message has remained throughout:
A big girl isn’t simply pretty for a big girl. She’s pretty, period.
But that’s just According to Adrienne.